Print, PR, radio/TV ... Hammond excels at all

Sara Hammond (Photo courtesy of AZPM)

Hammond interviews Candice Hansen and Alfred S. McEwen about their book, “Mars: The Pristine Beauty of the Red Planet.” (Photo courtesy of Planetary Science Institute)

Journalists reinvent themselves a lot these days. Sara Hammond can relate.

The 1977 alumna is a radio/television science reporter and producer at Arizona Public Media. She worked in public relations for Raytheon and the UA from 2000 until 2015 after seven years as a business reporter for the Arizona Daily Star. Before that, she worked for newspapers and public relations in Maine.

Hammond, vice-chair of the school’s Journalism Advisory Council, credits her J-school training for making the transition easier each time she switched careers. 

“I had a good education at the University of Arizona School of Journalism, and I was able to apply the concepts instilled in me in both areas,” she said. “Ethics, accuracy … all those ideals transferred, whether it’s journalism or PR, because of my solid grounding.”

Hammond grew up with journalism. Her father bought her hometown newspaper, the Centerburg (Ohio) Gazette, when she was 5 after it was in danger of closing when the publisher left. He owned it for 13 years.

“He didn’t draw a salary from it. He saw it as a public service to the little community where he was an attorney, on the school board and raising his family,” she says about the paper, which still publishes twice a week.

After receiving her UA degree, Hammond freelanced for papers in the Boston area before taking reporting jobs in Maine at the Journal Tribune and the Portland Press Herald, where she flew with the Navy’s Blue Angels, took a “cruise” on an aircraft carrier and met “every major politician in the state.”

In 1988, she took a PR job at Central Maine Power Co., where here corporate “beats” included hydro power. In 1993, she and her future husband, David Fales, moved to Tucson and she joined the Star, covering economic development, tourism and hospitality, and defense and the military.

In 2007, she joined the UA to support the NASA-funded Phoenix Mars Mission, the first time NASA had selected a public university to lead a planetary exploration. She moved to the UA Cancer Center in another communications position in late 2008 and remained there until going to AZPM in 2015.

She received a 2017 Rocky Mountain Emmy Award nomination as co-producer of “OSIRIS-Rex: Countdown to Launch,” about the asteroid mission. She also interviewed astronaut Scott Kelly while he was aboard the International Space Station and his brother, Mark, who was back on earth with his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. NASA is studying the twins to detect any genetic changes in long-term spaceflight.

“It has been a challenge, going from print to broadcast. I have reporting and writing experience, but I’ve had to learn the technology on the fly —  just like our students,” Hammond said. “At the end of the day, I tell myself, ‘I can do this.’”

Notable: The school welcomed three new members to its Journalism Advisory Council, all UA journalism grads: Hipolito Corella (’90), senior editor at the Arizona Daily Star; Chyrl Hill Lander (’76), former Star journalist and adjunct instructor; and Nicole Santa Cruz (’09), reporter at the Los Angeles Times. Jim Rowley stepped down from the Council. Steve Hirsch passed away in December 2016. Go to for more info.

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